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Replication reforms education

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One of the guiding tenets behind charter schools as education reformers has to do with the concept of replication. Replication means taking a model or program that has proven to be successful in a charter school, copying that model or program, and putting it back into the traditional schools.

Albuquerque Public Schools is doing exactly that with the implementation of an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at Sandia High School. For a number of years now, several charter schools in Albuquerque have been conducting very successful IB programs that attract a large number of students. It appears that APS has caught on to that and is now replicating the IB program into its system.

According to Jane Marx, Governing Council member at Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School, a tuition-free public charter school in Albuquerque that has a successful IB program: “Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School initiated efforts more than five years ago to become an IB Diploma Program school, and the charter school received IB Diploma Program accreditation in early 2010. Other charter schools in New Mexico have been leaders in pursuing the IB program for younger students: Corrales International was the first accredited Primary Years IB program in New Mexico, and The International School at Mesa del Sol is also IB PYP (Primary Years Program) accredited. New Mexico International is in the process of obtaining Primary Years Program accreditation, and Cien Aguas Charter School is seeking Middle Years Program accreditation.”

The IB program charter schools in Albuquerque are very popular, and they have waiting lists of students wanting to enroll in their schools. Cottonwood Classical has already been approved once by the Public Education Commission to increase its enrollment, and it is my understanding that it will soon be seeking permission to increase its enrollment again.

Seeing the popularity of IB programs and the success that students are having in those programs must surely have been a motivating factor in APS’ decision to replicate the program at Sandia.

Marx went on to elaborate, “the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is a world-renowned, high-quality college preparatory program which aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people prepared for a global future with a strong sense of global responsibility.

To receive an IB diploma, students must successfully study and test in six academic subjects (literature, foreign language, science, math, social science, art/music), write an extended essay involving independent research, complete an additional Theory of Knowledge course, and participate in 150 hours of ongoing creativity, action, and service activities equivalent to about three hours per week. IB certificates are awarded to students who successfully complete IB coursework and examinations in specific courses. All exams are graded by an internationally-selected team of reviewers to ensure the rigorous academic standards of IB are maintained worldwide.”

While it will be awhile before students actually graduate from Sandia High School’s IB program, I personally had the honor of attending an awards ceremony held several weeks ago at Cottonwood Classical to honor the first IB diploma and certificate students to graduate from a public school in New Mexico.

I congratulate APS for recognizing the value of the educational models offered in charter schools and wanting to see the successful programs from charter schools replicated in its system.

It is inspiring to see charter and other public schools leading the way in bringing to students the choice to pursue a high-quality college preparatory education. I also want to praise APS Superintendent Winston Brooks for acknowledging that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to education, and that students and parents need options that meet their needs.

The truth is that we all should put kids first, learn from one another and work together to improve our educational system.

On behalf of the members and staff of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools, I would like to extend our best wishes to everyone for a safe, restful, and joyous holiday season.

Bruce Hegwer, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools, writes a monthly column for the Journal.

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